George-Bolan-BearsStaley’s Bears 1920-1921


Height: 5-11 Weight: 203
Born: 4/30/1897 Highwood, IL
Died: 1/17/1940 New York, NY
High School: Deerfield-Shields (IL)
College: Purdue 1917-1918
Staleys: 1921

George Bolan joined Staleys in 1921 as the backup fullback to fellow Purdue alum Ken Huffine. Under his photo in the December 1921 issue of The Staley Journal it read: “One year on the Freshman varsity at Purdue is all the college experience George Boland {sic} of Chicago has had, but he has been associated with pro football and knows what is required. He and Huffine make a great pair to operate from the middle of the backfield.” In addition to the exhibition game against Waukegan, getting paid $25.00 per week Bolan played in six league games that season, starting in the inconsequential last game of the year – the zero degree tussle [a 0-0 tie] on December 18 against the Chicago Cardinals in front of maybe 3000 people. In addition to giving Kenneth Huffine a few breathers, Bolan subbed for other backs including taking Chic Harley’s spot after the star halfback’s ribs were broken on November 6 against Detroit. Bolan scored no points that year but did go on to play in 21 other games for the Chicago Bears in 1922, 1923 and 1924. He was one of 13 former Staley players who eventually played for the Bears.

Bolan was one of six children of Irish immigrants and grew up on the Fort Sheridan Military Reservation north of Chicago where his father John worked as a teamster and “engineer”. George attended Deerfield-Shields Township High School and was an outstanding football and basketball player known to fellow students as “Beef” Bolan. After graduating from high school he enrolled at Purdue University in Indiana in the fall of 1917 as a student in civil engineering. He pledged the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and played on the “Varsity freshman” football team in scrimmages against the varsity and future Staley teammate Ken Huffine. In June of 1918 he registered for the draft and later served in the U.S. Navy. He was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Center where it appears he watched and possibly scrimmaged against other future Staleys – Halas, Keefe, Jones, Blacklock and Driscoll – but was not listed as part of that Rose Bowl- winning team. Very little is known about Bolan’s military career or what he did after his professional sport experience with Decatur and Chicago.

Although on the team all season, Bolan only played one game for the Bears in 1924 when he subbed at fullback for Oscar Knop in a 5-0 loss at Green Bay on September 21. [On April 25 of that year his brother Edward Francis Bolan died of Bright’s disease while only a junior in high school]. George became a coal salesman and was still living with his parents and some siblings in Lake Forest in 1930. It appears that he never married. In 1940 he died in the Bronx VA clinic of a heart ailment at age 42 and was returned to Lake Forest for his funeral at the Church of St. Mary. The Chicago Tribune sports writers eulogized correctly that he played for Staleys and the Bears but erroneously reported that he was on the Purdue varsity in 1923, 1924, and 1925 getting him confused with his younger brother James Thomas Bolan who lettered there as a fullback at that time and later lived with George and the family in Lake Forest.

George H. Bolan rests today in Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery in Lake Forest, IL.

Copyright@2018 Mark W. Sorensen

My thanks to Adriana Harmeyer, Archivist for University History at Purdue University Archives for her help.